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FUD and the Little Things

I'm writing this from an Italian café ("table for one and a buggy, please") after I turned down my first-choice venue when I realised that I would have to go up a set of stairs just to go inside.

I was excited about this other café for a number of reasons: it had excellent reviews online; a TV show I love used it as a filming location; and, well, it's a café and god knows new mums like cafés.

I timed the afternoon nap perfectly - my one year old daughter was asleep in the buggy and I could finally have some "me time" over a hot drink and some food. I know, a nap on the move - how adventurous of me!

'"I turned around and walked away, suddenly consumed by feelings of failure"

As soon as I got there, the excitement I initially felt was replaced by the disappointment when I saw the café: it looked much smaller than the café in the TV show, and it sat on top of 4 or 5 stairs, as if looking down on me, challenging me to come inside.

I only stood on the pavement for a split second, but my brain - as all parents' brains do - did what seemed like an infinite number of calculations around 1) number of people around me (none), 2) likelihood of someone walking by at that time of day (low), 3) my newfound British awkwardness around asking for help or bothering a stranger (surprisingly high for a non-Brit), and 4) the chances of my daughter waking up if I or a stranger were to lift the buggy (also high).

At the end of it, I turned around and walked away, suddenly consumed by feelings of failure - I let the accessibility issues get the best of me; I didn't ask for help; I didn't give it a try. Then a second wave - shame - hit me as I was still processing it all. I've taken my daughter on adventurous trips abroad, yet here I am, stopping myself from doing something as banal as going to a café because of my child or my "circumstances" as a new mum. How pathetic.

"This time, my brain didn't weigh any pros or cons or think about a million other permutations - I simply walked in."

By the time I got here, those feelings and thoughts had taken me to a dark place of guilt and self-doubt. Then I spotted this little Italian café, with its wide door (hello double buggies!) and small ramp. Ordinary enough that no TV production company would select it as a filming location. But wonderfully accessible and spacious. This time, my brain didn't weigh any pros or cons or think about a million other permutations - I simply walked in.

I was taken to a large table with enough room for my buggy and a high-chair - one of those that have straps that actually secure your child! - and I was given some colouring pens and pencils ("are these for me or the baby?"). The food was as comfortable as the whole setup, and a godsend on a day like today.

As my daughter gives the first signs of waking up, I can't help wonder why this had to be this hard. She's healthy, curious, "on track", and "doing well". I'm managing ok - doing the best I can and learning from my mistakes. In the grand scheme of things, we can't complain. Then why does this feel so hard at times?

It feels hard because the little things matter. In a world where we're already consumed by FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt), "little things" like accessibility and convenience provide us with a good baseline for the day. Some days may be harder than others, but at least we won't immediately have to face our own failure as parents as soon as we step out of the house. We keep the FUD for the stuff that matters.


Lara Geraldes Vincent is from Lisbon, Portugal and has lived in London for 11 years. She is mum to 15-month old Olivia. In her free time, she works as a product manager in a tech company.

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